Friday, October 30, 2009

Raw Banana in Coconut Sauce - Kela Sukke from a blog

It is that time of the year, most days dawn dark and gloomy and the sky is threatening a deluge anytime. And these times ask for superhuman effort to be cheerful. On days like these I'll take anything that brings cheer. This is the time I miss acutely the drama/humanity filled life in India, the happenings and goings on in the surrounding houses, contacts with the people around, though occasionally a source of resentment or harassment it is also comforting for the easy participation in the rhythms of life. I never understood the value of these seemingly mundane everyday things till I lost it.

That simple spontaneous participation in the rhythms of life in general is what is missing most from our secluded lives here. There is no chance for unplanned contact with people unless you use public transportation. Probably explains why everyone is wary of the unknown and lot of people it seems to me have lost their ability to communicate in a non-formal setting. When people do come in contact with others instead of communicating they confront. There are weirdos everywhere, a neighbor called the cops on another neighbor because they had cleaners(noise) in their home before 8:00AM, which is apparently against the law a fact I had no idea about till i heard of the incident. The neighbor who had cops in her doorstep was the same one who had helped the one who had called the cops a week before the incident. I am as baffled as you will be.

I enjoy houses on the street which have multiple generations living under one roof and are busy places and gives a feeling of a minor dose of life back home. One house has 2 generations living in same house, the MIL and the newly married DIL take long walks and they are out and about even on a cold days. The sight itself is enough to bring cheer. The other neighbors I adore most are the dog walking who save the streets from taking a forlorn deserted look. Some of these dog walkers have friends who drive down to join them.


Having lived and watched my neighborhood closely for a decade I begin to realize that people are essentially the same everywhere. I doubt anybody enjoys nosy parkers and know it alls but people in general yearn to make the places more community than it being a bunch of houses. For a couple of years when the houses were newly built block parties and neighborhood get togethers were common place and then life took over and they were forgotten. We revived the practice last year and these block parties (for lack of a better name) have become something to look forward to. This to a large extent confirms that essential human trait - socializing. We even have a Ladies Chat in the works. We have partying and a bit of community service in the mix. No prizes for guessing the turnout for the party is higher than the community service projects but that is fine. Based on experience, people don't really care if they do not get information about the service projects but God help if they get left out of any parties. We are a pretty diverse neighborhood and it is amazing the different dishes that makes it to the table, who wouldn't be mad if they are left out. We are looking forward to the Halloween party tomorrow.

What are the fun stuff you look forward to in your neighborhood?


There are not many recipes that I know which use raw bananas, so when I saw this recipe on The Yum Factor a blog I came to know of thorough one of PepperMill- Miri's posts there was no going back. As I was browsing through the blog I saw the recipe and as luck would have it, had 2 raw bananas lying aimlessly in the fridge.









Raw Banana in coconut sauce
Ingredients
1. 2 Raw bananas, remove the skin and cut into bite sized pieces and dropped in water
2. 1/2 cup of channa dal soaked for a couple of hours and pressure cooked with a bit of oil and turmeric powder
3. seasonings: curry leaves, mustard seeds, asfoetida and fenugreek seeds

For the paste
1. 3 tbsp of grated fresh coconut
2. a grape sized piece of tamarind
3. 1/2 tbsp coriander seeds
4. 4 red chilies
5. 1/2 tsp of fenugreek seeds

Toast 3-5 and transfer them to the blender. Powder first, then add the coconut and tamarind and blend to a coarse paste. (I blended mine to a smooth paste and the texture is different)

Method
1. In a pot add the chopped bananas and cook till soft, add the pressure cooked channa dal and mix.
2. Now add the ground paste and salt and bring it a boil.
3.Now heat oil in a separate pan and add the seasonings and pour over the curry.
4. Turn off the heat or continue cooking till the desired consistency is reached.


This was a big hit and even the kids loved it. Was excellent over rice. Thanks Arch.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Purple Hyacinth bean (Avarakkai) Pulav

Green Earth
Do you stress over whether to rinse out recyclable food containers before you toss them? I do. So this article in the Washington Post Health and Science sectionwas timely. The gist, it is not necessary to wash them out, recycling facilities are equipped to handle them. Tossing out half an unused jar might not be a good idea because of spoilage and rotting. If your community uses single stream recycling where paper,plastic,glass are all recycled together, then it is a good idea to rinse out and clean. Read the details in the above link.

Slate has a Green Lantern column here which answers a lot of questions.

Buying seafood has been a bit challenging these days. Deciding between which fish has higher mercury content, which one has been sustainably caught and after all this to see which one is fresh is not only nerve wracking but pretty baffling. I am exaggerating but these thoughts do go around in our heads don't they? Monterey Bay Aquarium is releasing ranking that would make it easier to buy fish. Here is Good for the oceans, good for you.




whole beans


I have been under the impression that purple hyacinth beans (avarakkai in Tamil) were very similar to the green hyacinth beans. My neighbor had them growing in his yard and the flowers and the beans are a very pretty sight. Here in the US, they are used mostly as ornamental plants. We got a big bag of them from our neighbor last week. I have never cooked with these purple beans before, they are a bit more fleshy than the avarakkai we are used to and the taste was very different. I had a few dishes in mind but decided on the pulav. We had been eating chapatis for the previous few days and were craving for rice.



whole bean, split in half and the seeds


If you do not want a rice dish, stop just before adding the rice and you have a nice tasty side dish for rotis. I have added quite a bit of black pepper, adjust to your taste.






Ingredients
1. 1 1/2 Cups of Basmati rice/Seeraga Samba + water
2. 3 cups of hyacinth beans cut into pieces
3. 1 medium red onion, 1 - 1/2 cup worth chopped fine
4. 2 medium sized tomatoes, 1 cup worth chopped fine
5. 1/2 tbsp ginger grated
6. 2 red chilies split
7. seasonings: curry leaves, mustard seeds, fennel seeds
8. 2 tsp turmeric powder (optional)
9. 2 tsp of oil

To Powder
1. 1 tbsp coriander seeds
2. 3 tsp peppercorn (or to taste)
3. 1 tsp cumin
4. 2 tsp split urad dal
5. 4 red chilies
Dry roast the above and make a powder

Method
1. In a pressure cooker or a pan enough to cook 1 1/2 cups of rice, heat oil and add the seasonings.
2. Add the onions and red chilies and saute till onions are translucent
3. Add the tomatoes and ginger and saute till tomatoes are soft
4. Now add the beans and let them cook till they are half cooked 5-8 minutes
5. Now add the masala powder,turmeric powder and mix.
6. If you are making a gravy add 2 cups of water and required salt and let it cook till the beans are soft

OR
6. Now add the rice,salt and mix it well with the beans.
7. Add the required amount of water, let the water come to a boil and the rice 3/4th cooked.
8. Close the lid and place the weight if using pressure cooker and cook for 6 minutes on low medium.


Serve with raita.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Paruppu Urundai Kuzhambu (Lentil balls in a spicy sauce)

A course of events happened last week that made me think about destiny. Of however small the consequences may have been, it made me pay a bit more attention, enough I guess to write about. I looked up the dictionary meaning and here it is.
destiny - a predetermined course of events often held to be an irresistible power or agency

Once the course of events have been set forth in motion they do not stop. This is true for good and bad but it is easier to notice the bad ones than the good ones. Our happiness perhaps lies in noticing the good ones more than the bad ones. Hoping with practice the good course of events will get more obvious.

A couple of weeks ago on a Friday, DD came home very upset because her calculator had gone missing. It was a brand new calculator and it was a bit more than $100 worth. Though upsetting the incident gave us an opportunity to talk about how to keep stuff careful at school, be generally watchful and smart. We as adults wrote it down to stuff happens. Come Monday DD finds her calculator and comes home beaming. I am not sure what exactly happened but some parent perhaps had a conversation with their child about taking what does not belong to them etc. Pure speculation and I digress.

A couple of days later engine/emission problem light comes on in the dashboard of the car I am driving. On reading the manual it advises to not drive too far and have it checked out very soon. We get a bill for close to $100 from the mechanic for the testing. The car was under warranty a fact we realize afterwards, a check and fix have been free if it had been taken to an authorized dealer. On talking to the manufacturer they agreed to refund the amount. That was the second time the $100 was saved!

A few days after that I realize that I had scheduled payment for the credit cards about 8 days later than the due date :( We all know the consequences of that stupid action. There we finally lost the $100 for certain this time. The $100 that was intended to get away got away.

Probably mundane, inconsequential sequence of events that is not worth repeating but into which a deeper meaning can be read into. Like sadness lasting longer than happiness we are able to recognize the events because of the loss. Just like loss, gains visits us perhaps more often than we know. We rarely pay attention to the gains in our life. We probably made a few hundred dollars worth of profits some where, but have no idea.

Just like the loss held away tentatively and made its way, good deeds are holding tentatively to make it our way if only we let them. Something to think about don't you think?



Steamed


Paruppu Urundai kuzhambu is one of those recipes and that has always held a great fascination but one that has never been tried. That changed recently when I set about to make it. I had longingly looked at pictures on Of Soups and Souffles and MIL's cook made it when we were visiting.





The cook loves to cook non-veg and no wonder the finally taste was close to non-veg as possible and tasted excellent. abacharam (travesty) you say :)






Ingredients
1. 1 Cup of toor dal soaked for couple of hours
2. 5 red chilies
3. half a pea sized piece of asfoetida
4. 1 1/2 chopped red onions
5. 1 1/2 cups of chopped tomatoes
6. 4-6 cloves of garlic
7. 1/2 tbsp grated ginger
8. 3 tsp sambhar powder
9. 1 cup of tamarind extract from a small lime sized piece of tamarind
10. seasonings: curry leaves, mustard, cumin (cook added fennel seeds as well)
11. salt to taste

To make the urundai
1. Blend the toor dal with the chilies, asfoetida and salt to a coarse paste just sprinkling enough water to blend. Save the water used to wash out the blender.
2. Shape into lime sized balls and steam cook. An idli pan works best. Steam for 6-8 minutes. Set aside
Method
1. In a pan heat a tsp of oil and add the seasonings.
2. Add the onions, along with the garlic and saute till translucent
3. Add the ginger and sambhar powder and give a good mix.
4. Now add the tomatoes and saute till they are soft and mash them with the back of a spoon.
5. Add the tamarind extract and bring it to a boil.
6. Add the saved washed out blender water and salt. Bring to a boil.
7. Add the steamed toor dal balls. Break a few of them into the gravy. Let heat through for a couple of minutes


Serve over rice or tastes great as a side for chapathis as well.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Crabapple Jelly

I used to work in a team and our big boss there did not believe in deadlines. He was a medical doctor and maybe that had something to do with it. He, IMO rightly believed that deadlines were an artificial constraint that did nobody any good. I rarely remember a time when someone took advantage of it and took forever to finish something. Well there are always dead weights but most work got done on time. The team then got bought by a behemoth where managers(well most everyone was one) lived and died by deadlines. There was even a manager to manage the deadlines. For the few years I was there nothing ever got done by the deadline and it was a moving target. Triage and feature cuts were normal and the morale was generally low. Deadlines are not bad when they are reasonable and serve a purpose.



Crabapples



So if deadlines are detrimental in the workplace I bet they are more detrimental in everyday life. We set deadlines for ourselves to accomplish from the time we wake up till we go to bed. A lot us no wonder feel stressed out. Add financial insecurity, demanding job and uncertainty to the mix. We become walking disasters. In the end small things like cooking meals, cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping etc all add to this stress.



straining the juice


It certainly pays dividends to not sweat the small stuff but it is easier said than done. Rushing from one activity to the next with this ever present pressure at the back of the head of the deadlines to meet however small they may be is indeed stressful. For a day I decided to move away from rushing and do things at a slow pace, lingering longer on those I liked without rushing off to do the next activity on time. It felt good and I had the feeling of contentment of enjoying the day for what it is. It also happened to be a beautiful day and a impromptu nice walk was just the right tonic. At the end of the day everything got done (they usually do if you stress or not) but with a lot less stress and pleasure. I know it is not always practical to not have deadlines but like DH says it is not always good to let life take over instead of living it. Helps to do a reality check every now and then. What say you and do you sweat the small things?



Mixed with sugar and set to boil


I not only believe in not wasting the produce that comes out of my backyard garden, looks like I has also taken upon the responsibility of not letting go waste produce from my neighbor's gardens as well! My friend has this beautiful crabapple tree in her yard and the clumps of red crabapples look so very attractive and jelly was the first thing that came to mind when I saw them. Mostly they are for a purely ornamental purpose but I love the puckering taste of those crabapples and it seemed a shame to let them rot, collected about 4 cups of these crabapples to give it a first try. I searched for some recipes and was quite surprised at how easy they sounded. I followed the recipe from Life Time of Cooking . I delayed removing from the heat by a minute and so the jelly got a bit more thick but still tasted very good. Nothing can be more simple than this, the simplicity surprised me. I am on the lookout for the next fruit to make a jelly out of.

Now is the season for crabapples so go shake some trees. A lot of them are on the medians and road sides :)






Ingredients
1. 4 Cups of crabapples stems removed and ends cut and cleaned and cut in half
2. 1 1/4 cups of sugar
3. lime juice from half a lime.
4. 2 Cups of water
5. Cheese cloth for straining
Method
1. In a heavy bottom pan deep enough (so the boiling syrup does not splatter all over) add the crabapples with 2 cups of water. Water just enough to submerge the fruit.
2. Let it boil till the fruit becomes soft,squeeze in the lime juice (10-12 minutes)
3. Strain the juice into a container through the cheese cloth, (some recipes recommend to leave it overnight for the juice to strain and not to squeeze it, but impatient me went ahead and squeezed the juice out.
4. Now transfer the juice and sugar to the pan and let it boil. Once the syrup starts to coat the spoon switch off the heat. Or like Ganga says, do the cold saucer test, a drop in a cold saucer should not move around.
5.Transfer to a sterilized jar[boil water and rinse the glass bottle in the boiling water and let it air dry]


The color was fabulous. We are planning on making a slightly bigger batch over the weekend.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Murukku (Crunchy Savory Snack)




Deepavali this year was a memorable one in terms of achievement. It gave me an opportunity to cross a bridge that has been a tough one to cross. Fear of the unknown, a nervousness that put a mental block all had to overcome to get to this point. Several sleepless nights and watching in awe an array of people crossing this bridge with flying colors did not help but gave me a solid resolve. It took nearly 15years but finally I am on the other side feeling massively happy and satiated.



dough just before butter was added


Wondering what I am talking about? It is the process of making murukkus. Yes I finally did it. It was not hard as I imagined it to be but the murukku puzhi(press) proved to be the challenge. It was bought 15 years ago lying unused.




frying murukku


DD did a great job frying up the murukkus while I struggled to make murukku shapes with the press. She also figured out the right time to remove them from the hot oil and ensuring uniformly fried/colored murkkus. Couldn't have done without her.



when pressing this way proved hard


switched to this way and worked like a charm. the murukku came on top!


Like gulab jamuns these murkkus were a constant presence in grandma's house. Crunchy but delicate and super tasty and hardly any sign of oil. A phone call was placed to grandma to get the exact recipe on Deepavali day.

Notes:
1. The dough should be just right, if watery more oil would be absorbed.
2. The heat should be uniform and medium low, this makes for uniformly cooked murukkus. Very high heat the murukku gets dark in color without it getting cooked inside.
3. Update: 2 parts rice for 1 part roasted chick pea powder. To this add 2 tbsp of urad dal for the aroma.
4. A large amount of urad dal powder will make the dough too stiff as it absorbs water.
The final result was well worth it. This kid adored snack was a delight. I was beyond thrilled that they tasted very close to ammayee's.







Ingredients
1. 2 cups par boiled rice (idly rice) soaked for 2 hours
2. 2 tbsp urad dal without skin
3. 1 cup roasted channa dal or dalia (pottukadalai)
4. a small pea sized piece of asfoetida
5. 8 red chilies
6. salt to taste
7. 2 tbsp butter
8. Oil for frying - 2 cups of Canola oil

Method
Dough Preparation
1. Blend the rice to a smooth paste with the red chilies with the minimum amount of water required to blend or grind. Add salt and remove to a container.
2. roast the asfoetida for a few seconds
3. Dry roast the urad dal, cool and powder it along with the asfoetida.
4. Powder the roasted channa dal.
5. Mix the urad dal, channa dal powders to the blended rice along with the butter and make a pliable but stiff dough.

Frying the Murukkus
6. Oil the murukku press and fill it with the dough and press into desired shape on a old towel and then transfer to the oil or press directly into the oil.
7. Heat oil in a deep fryable pan, make sure the flame is medium low. (drop a small bit to check if the oil is hot enough)
8. Now drop the pressed murukku shapes into the oil and fry till done. You will see bubbles coming out at first and then slowly stopping and starting to slightly sink, remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

Note:
1. Urad dal in the recipe is just for the flavor so do not use too much. It makes the dough stiff and makes it hard to press.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Happy Deepavali!

Dear Readers,

Wishing you all a very Happy Deepvalai! I bet most of you are having fun with an array of sweets and savories, colorful clothes and sparkling fireworks. Please spare a moment of thought for those away from home and who cannot afford to celebrate.


I set out to make Almond Burfi but ended up with Almond Halwa. Not bad you say. I thinks so too.





Happy Deepavali!


I am planning on making some murukkus (crunchy savories). Will see how that turns out!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blog Action Day 2009 - Climate Change

Climate Change
I was listening to the radio a few days ago and was aghast at what I was hearing. This on liberal NPR radio. The speaker was vehemently denying and calling climate change and Global Warming hocus pocus. By now even the most ardent of deniers should have no problem recognizing the effects of climate change in their own backyards. But politics and a blind belief in capitalism would make ostriches out of a lot of climate change deniers.

Climate change invariably hurts the people in the poor and developing countries more than the rich countries. Rising food prices further strains the ability of the poor to afford food. Food insecurity will perhaps be the most pressing problem that governments have to tackle because of reduced harvests a result of lack of rainfall in the years to come. In the US arguably the riches country in the World in 2007, 11.1 percent of the households were food insecure at one point. The statistics for this year could be even more stark. Source: FAO - 1.02 billion people are hungry of which 400 million are children. The financial crisis combined with climate change has exacerbated an already severe problem.

For most of us who have the choice of foods to pick whenever we visit the grocery store, giving a little thought to the path taken by the produce to reach the grocery aisle would certainly teach us a lesson or two. Just like global warming has reduced the species that inhabit the planet, a lot of crops would disappear too. The warming planet and the lack of rainfall in certain parts of the world, floods and storms in other parts of the world have reduced the ouput of wheat and rice - the staples that feed the planet. Time to act is NOW.

The reducing quality of life for the farmers in the far corners of the world because of the subsidies and trade agreements that the US government signs should also be in our consciousness. We have read and heard about what subsidized European and US food products hurting local farming and creating a dependence and leading to abandonment of local sustainable farming practices. The farmers who were never rich in the first place get poorer and poorer.

The failed monsoons this year in India and the rising temperatures have sent most farmers into deeper debt and some into suicide a direct result of lack of rainfall and drought which in fact is the direct result of ,you guessed it global warming. Thy have never heard of climate change but it hits them hard and they pay a huge price.

In Africa, droughts are common place because of the vagaries of climate change. Agriculture in poor and developing countries is practised the way they have been for many generations and it is based on the natural rain cycles. Climate change shifts these cycles and the variability could cause failure or complete failure of crops. Read this excellent article.

Scientists are warning of more violent storms and longer droughts which is going to directly affect food production around the world. Climate change and it effects on agriculture is most severe putting in jeopardy the ability to feed everyone. World population is expected to grow to 9 billion by 2050 but arable land and food production is expected to drastically reduce, confluence of which would be drastic.

In coming years the wars would be more about water than petroleum. The glaciers in the Himalayas are disappearing at a rate faster than any time in history. This would cause perennial rivers to become seasonal and put in jeopardy mainly agriculture and life that sorrounds these rivers.

The West Coast of the US is in the grip of a multi year drought that has made local jurisdictions to come up with novel water management schemes. But in water parched west the problems are more likely to aggravate than get better. Problems like these will be he norm than the exception if action is not taken NOW.

I doubt there is great debate about any of the facts. The challenge is getting the rich, poor and developing countries to come together to tackle the problems of climate change. Scientists warn that the window for effecting change is getting shorter and shorter. The developing countries are reluctant to make concessions in stalling development efforts in pulling their people out of poverty. On the other hand the rich countries are reluctant to give up the status quo.

This is where as citizens we can pressure our governments to do the right thing. We can pressure companies into doing the right thing by voting with our pocket books. Companies are starting to pay attention to demands from their customers. But first and foremost is for us to make a pact to understand the effects of climat change and do something about it.

I do not claim that effecting change is easy nor do I know enough to preach, but we can certainly do small things within our control. Carry cloth bags to shop, stop buying non-seasonal produce, pay attention to where the foods come from, supporting local farmers' movements.

Thanks for reading. Particpate in

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Indian Style Fried Rice

U.S. Teens Rank Lower In Math And Science Compared To Other Teens Abroad - i was listening to this program on our local NPR radio station this morning. While this is concerning in itself there is another facet of the US education which is perhaps unique and I hope never changes due to some education reform or another. What sets it apart is the appreciation for innovation and creativity which are highly valued. Being Indian and ahem Asian another facet of the education that caught my attention almost immediately is the encouragement by teachers to think critically and the understand that the teacher is not necessarily the final authority and the students are given the leeway to question the teacher's assumptions. This is the exact opposite of what happens in most Asian countries where the teacher is the final authority right or wrong. I won't comment on education in other European countries of which I have no first or even second hand experience. Readers chip in. Students never question the teacher and most times does not have the skills or the encouragement to think out of the box. What is in the textbook is final. Critical thinking is not openly encouraged.

This probably explains why most Asians are reluctant to question authority even when they know they are right. In the work place we are always afraid of losing the job or a promotion opportunity and suppress opinions even when positive we are right. The management knows that they can count on these employees not to open their mouths if a stupid decision is taken. Is it the education system or is it the social culture that has made people doormats. But once the authority figure is out of earshot opinions tumble out like water in Niagara Falls. Why do you think this is so?

Now the recipe,
This recipe was inspired by a recipe that Sanjeev Kapoor cooked on Rachel Ray's morning show on TV. They were a max of 6 ingredients, day old rice, tomato pickle, shrimp,cumin seeds and coriander leaves. I rarely have day old rice when in a mood to cook fried rice. What works best is to cook brown rice or par boiled rice in a electric rice cooker and to use it after it has cooled.





Indian Style Fried Rice
Ingredients
1. 12-16 Shrimp marinated in lemon juice, red chili powder a couple of pinches of salt and 2 tsp red chili paste (used a Thai kind) for a vegetarian version use cauliflower.
2. 2 bell peppers cut into thin strips.
3. 1/2 Medium sized onion cut into thin strips (1/2 cup worth)
4. 1 tsp of soy sauce (optional)
5. 2 tsp of Maggi chili sauce
6. 1 tbsp of mango pickle or tomato pickle
7. 2 eggs beaten with salt and pepper powder
8. 2-3 tsp of oil
9. a handful of coriander leaves
10. 2 cups of cooked brown rice
Method
1. In a wok heat the oil and when almost smoking, add the shrimp and cook them for a minute or two till it starts to turn pink, remove and set aside.
2. To same pot add the onions and saute till slightly brown followed by the bell pepper strips and let them cook till soft.
3. Add the cooked rice and mix it in. Add the chili sauce, pickles and soy sauce and mix well and let the rice heat through
4. In the meantime make scrambled eggs with the beaten egg.
5. Mix the shrimp and the eggs to the rice and after a couple of minutes turn off the heat. Garnish with coriander leaves.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Bell Pepper and Brinjal in peanut sauce

I wasn't going to talk about Obama, 2 posts in a row but here I am. "Obama wins the Nobel Peace Prize" read a headline on a news website. My immediate reaction was to take a quick look at the calendar, it was not April! and then What?. But Why? The Nobel committee says it his vision for the future, rather than past achievement that deserved a Nobel Prize! Congratulations! Mr.President. We wish you all the best. I would also like to borrow Cilantro's quote" Lets hope `He still Can`" do what he promised when he was campaigning to be President and also fulfil the promises that so enamored the Nobel Prize committee into giving him this award.

An unseasonably warm pleasant day with a breeze and a Nobel prize for our President, what more can one ask for really?





Peanut dishes did not make a regular appearance in my kitchen until recently as part of a meal. In the unusual cases they did did it was as a snack - boiled, roasted and on very rare occasions chutney - once in a year maybe. This till I discovered blogs and in particular Andhra cooking. Peanuts I now realize hold a special place in most Andhra kitchens. They are used in gravies, chutneys, seasonings, masala and many more than I thought possible. I tasted a bell pepper gravy with peanuts in my friend's many many years ago and I assumed the creamy texture was from coconuts till she told me otherwise. Her Telgu friend had given her the recipe. I was reminded of the recipe recently when I had a few bell peppers on hand, and plenty of roasted peanuts. Used the recipe from Mahanandi, Capsicum Curry. Quick and very tasty recipe.






Recipe Source: Capsicum Curry

Bell Pepper and Brinjal in peanut sauce
1. 3 bell pepper cored and cut into small pieces
2. 1 Purple brinjal chopped (1 cup worth)
3. 1/2 medium sized red onion
4. 2 tomatoes chopped fine
5. seasonings: mustard, curry leaves and cumin

For the paste
1. half a cup of roasted peanuts
2. 6 roasted red chilies
3. 1 cup tamarind extract from a small lemon sized piece of tamarind

Blend the above to a smooth paste.

Method
1. In a pan heat oil and add the seasonings. When the mustards starts to splutter add the onions and saute till translucent.
2. Add the tomatoes and saute for a couple of minutes
3. Now add the brinjals and saute till they start to turn color.
4. Add the bell peppers and saute for a few minutes.
5. Lower the heat to low medium, add the blended peanut paste and a cup of water, salt and let it cook for about 10 minutes till the bell pepper is soft.
Add more or less water depending upon consistency.


Serve with rice.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Thick Lentil Stew with Pumpkin and Butternut Squash

"Yes we Can" Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva used the phrase effectively to win his country the chance to host the Olympics in 2016 and beating Barack Obama at his own game - campaigning! That Copenhagen trip was a waste of taxpayer money. The poignant story that Michele Obama told before the Olympic committee might have been a great stump speech but to use that for granting the Olympics to her city? Effect of having Oprah with her?

Obama's Presidency heralded a new era in politics and the country was brimming with optimism but not so much now. Have events conspired against him or is he making everything harder for himself? I just wish he would be more assertive and more hands on. Just like home, does the loss of the Olympics venue illustrate that Europe's honeymoon with him is coming to an end as well?


I saw this delicious looking dal recipe on Beyond Curries from Vani of Mysoorean and immediately decided to try it out butternut squash. The taste of butternut squash is indistinguisable from the pumpkins we are used to back in India with the orange flesh, sold here in the US as Spanish pumpkin. I used both but I prefer the taste of the butternut squash. I did not have channa dal and had to substitute with urad dal. I did not add any jaggery 'cos the squash is sweet by itself.

Recipe Source: Badanekayi Eerulli Huli: Thick Lentil Stew with Eggplants & Onions






Thick Lentil Stew with Pumpkin and Butternut Squash
Ingredients
1. 1 cup of toor dal pressure cooked with a drop of sesame oil and a tsp of turmeric
2. 3 cups of chopped butter nut squash and pumpkin(if using)
3. 1/4 cup red onion chopped
4. 1/4 cup tamarind extract
5. salt to taste
6. seasonings: cumin,mustard, curry leaves
7. 1 tsp oil

For the Paste
1. 2 tbsp grated fresh/frozen coconut
2. 1 tbsp urad dal
3. a pinch of asfoetida
4. 1/2 tbsp coriander seeds
5. 4-6 red chilies

Dry roast 2-5 and powder, add the coconut about 3 tbsp of water and blend to a paste

Method
1. In a wide mouthed pan heat oil, add the seasonings. When the mustard pops add the onion and saute for a few minutes.
2. Now add the squash and pumpkin pieces and let it cook for a few minutes.
3. Add the blended paste with a cup of water and let it come to a boil. At this point the squash should be almost cooked.
4. Now add the mashed dal and mix. Let cook for 4-5 minutes
5. Now add the tamarind extract,salt and bring it to a boil.
6. Turn off the heat when it becomes thick.


Serve with rice or chapatis.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Chicken roast with potatoes


Green Earth
I felt guilty when I read that our demand for the softest tissue to wipe our behinds is the reason behind cutting down of decades or century old trees. Unlike in Europe where mostly recycled paper is used for making toilet paper, Americans demand for the softest of soft tissues has resulted in clear cutting of virgin forests. Only 5% of the toilet paper sold in the US is made from recycled paper. If you are curious Seventh Generation and Marcel Small Steps are the companies that manufacture toilet paper from mostly recycled fiber. Read the full article The Unkindest Flush.

Newsweek released the list of the Greenest Companies in the US. Would a higher green ranking encourage you to buy more of the company's products compared to a competitor?



I had a packet of chicken thighs sitting in the freezer for quite some time. If it sat there any longer it had to make its way to the dumpster pretty soon. Before that happened I glanced at this recipe and that saved the chicken and my conscience.

The recipe is adapted from Will-O'-the Wisp.






Ingredients
1. 1 1/2 lbs of chicken cut into bite sized pieces (I used the thighs with bones)
2. 4 Medium sized potatoes cut into slices - 1 1/2 cups worth
3. 1 Large Red Onion - 1 1/2 Cups sliced thin
4. 6-8 garlic cloves chopped fine
5. 2 inch piece of ginger grated
6. 2 1/2 tomatoes chopped fine - 1 cup
7. 4 red chilies broken
8. 1 tbsp sambhar powder or red chili powder + 2 tsp pepper powder
9. seasonings - cinnamon, cloves, fennel seeds and curry leaves - 2 sprigs
10. 1/2 tbsp lemon juice

To Powder
1. 1 1/2 tbsp coriander seeds
2. 2 tsp cumin seeds
3. 1/2 tbsp pepper
4. 5 red chilies
5. 2 tsp turmeric powder
6. 1 tbsp yogurt
dry roast the spices 1-4 and powder and mix it with the chicken along with the yogurt and set aside for an hour.

Method
1. In a pan heat oil and add the whole spices and curry leaves. Add the minced garlic and ginger and sliced onions and saute till they turn brown.
2. Add the tomato and saute till it turns soft.
3. Now add the potatoes and mix it well.
4. Add the marinating chicken and mix it well. Saute for a few minutes, add salt, close the lid and let the it cook about 8-10 minutes.
5. Open the lid add the sambhar powder and pepper powder and cook in open flame in medium heat for another 10 minutes.


Cooking the chicken for too long makes it tough, so once the chicken is cooked fish it out and add them back in once the gravy has become thick.

We enjoyed this very tasty chicken with rice, chapathis and idlis.






The peppers have just started growing.





Guess what they are going to be cooked into.